I need help formulating a letter for my 17-year-old niece who was accepted to a great university; then they withdrew their offer because she received Ds in Physics and Math, which she should have never taken. Since then she is back up to above 3.0 GPA.
It took her 9 years to get her black belt in karate and 4 years to make honors violinist. We are proud of her and really want to see her in this school. I am trying to fight her college rejection from this angle: Wait and see her final grades, don’t judge her from the snapshot, which was taken during a very difficult time in her personal life. Can you help me?
by Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage
Based on the likely timing of the university’s acceptance—then withdrawal, I’m presuming the decision to withdraw the offer followed an interim grade report during your niece’s senior year. Since it’s unlikely she can drop those courses at this stage, she should be taking steps (even if she dreads it) to secure tutoring assistance in both subjects (with strong fellow students recommended by her teachers, with the teachers themselves after school, or with independent tutorial assistance—check at a local university or community college) to boost those grades. She can also make the assertion (and then follow through, of course) to take the classes again in either summer school at the high school or through a local community college over the summer.
If the Ds were the final grades for courses taken her junior year, then there isn’t any hope for boosting performance in those classes. I’d still recommend she immediately sign up for summer classes on both (they usually start mid- to end-June, so waste no time). This shows that she is willing to persevere—even if the subjects are not related to her intended major—and that she takes responsibility for her grades and learning.
Whichever scenario fits your niece’s situation, she can use this story to write positively in a letter that she sends to the admissions office (by the way, this letter must come from her; it also wouldn’t hurt to have the two teachers of the problematic courses include letters on her behalf if she has turned around her grades in those two classes). At the same point that she is telling the story of her action and solution to the grades—all while stating that her performance did not live up to her expectations—she should explain the real circumstances behind her less-than-stellar grades. As a senior, maybe she tried to take on too many activities (the fact that she achieves in a competitive individual sport as well as musically tells many good things about her character)—and realized one marking period into the process that she couldn’t quite manage it all. That’s why it’s important to show what her turnaround plan is (tutor, extra help, summer course, etc.) and how she’s confident that with the same level of determination she applies to everything in her life, she knows she can produce strong results.
If she’s already turned things around academically in the two difficult courses, it’s still a good idea to pursue some extra help to ensure everything stays on course. Of course, she should mention in her letter that in the recent marking period, she’s pulled those Ds up to Bs … or As. She should also restate how she’s taken steps to stay on track for the balance of the year—and mention that these are study skills that will serve her well in college. In addition, the fact that she confronted a problem head-on (and did not drop the courses) is a plus for her.
There’s no harm in trying to get the college to reverse its decision, but she should realistically understand that there is a very small likelihood that this will happen. With that said, I urge her to look at other appropriate schools, visit websites, plan visits, etc. With thousands of colleges in the U.S. alone, there is bound to be another wonderful institution that would love to have her as a member of their entering freshman class.
Kudos to you for taking an active interest in your niece’s higher education! The bottom line to remember—always—is that the right school for your niece is the one where she is accepted, can anticipate attending, will thrive, and whose name she will be proud to display via the sticker on her car’s back window!
Jan Melnik is a job-search coach and resume writer; she has operated her own practice, Absolute Advantage, for 24 years and works with clients coast-to-coast in the development of exceptional materials and strategies. She is the author of 7 books, including Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes & Job Search.
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